Monday, January 07, 2008

Hang On Sloopy

I don't have much to add to everything that's been written about Ohio State's clash tonight with LSU, except to say that even for a Notre Dame fan like me, it would be really sweet to see the Buckeyes stick it to the pride of the SEC in their own backyard. I think they are perfectly capable of doing just that, and after last year's humiliation at the hands of Florida, I've got to believe that the Buckeyes are positively frothing at the mouth.

The key thing for Tressel is to effectively channel the team's rage. Football is a game that is best played with controlled fury, but there is such a thing as being too high for a game. If a coach isn't careful, a team on an emotional high can end up running out of gas as soon as the initial adrenaline rush passes. More importantly, teams that are too wound up tend to be brittle, and can collapse when they face the adversity that they'll inevitably confront when playing a quality opponent in a hostile environment.

The best news for Buckeye fans is that Jim Tressel knows all of this better than just about anybody else. Last year's game was about as uncharacteristic a performance as I've ever seen from a Jim Tressel team, and I don't think we're in for a repeat tonight. Ohio State will be ready.

I also like the fact that nobody expects the Buckeyes to win this game, and I'm sure that Tressel likes that too. Conventional wisdom says that LSU is a lot faster, deeper and more talented than Ohio State, which would struggle to remain in the upper echelon of the SEC if it were a member of that exalted conference.

Okay, whatever. All I can say is that I've seen LSU play quite a bit this season, and while they are certainly a good team with some tremendous players (Glenn Dorsey would look mighty good in an orange helmet), they haven't looked like a colossus to me. With the exception of its complete annihilation of Virginia Tech during the second week of the season, LSU didn't run away and hide from the better teams on its schedule. The Bayou Bengals lost games to Kentucky on the road and to Arkansas at home, beat Florida and Auburn on their last possession, and got pushed to the wall by a mediocre Alabama team.

On the other hand, with the exception of the loss to Illinois, Ohio State has been pretty workmanlike in disposing of its foes all season. Sure, Ohio State's Big 10 opponents didn't walk on water like the glorious and all powerful teams in the SEC that LSU faced, but the Bucks went 11-1 while playing four ranked teams, only one less than LSU. Ohio State wasn't as dominant offensively as it was last year, but it didn't suck either.

Even those who say that Ohio State and LSU are a good match tend to give the nod to the Tigers because the game is being played in New Orleans. A lot is being made of the home field advantage that LSU will enjoy in the Superdome, but Ohio State did beat Michigan in The Big House earlier this season, so they aren't exactly strangers to hostile environments. I know, I know -- you just can't replicate the noise in the Superdome, and LSU fans are much more rabid than Wolverine fans, who are the most gracious and polite fans in all of college sports (just ask them). Well, my guess is that LSU's fans were pretty rabid in Baton Rouge during the Arkansas game earlier this season, and yet somehow, the 8-5 Razorbacks managed to get it done.

After last season's football and basketball debacles, I know that a lot of Ohio State fans are a little more subdued than normal at the prospect of playing for a national championship. Actually, based on my conversations with many Buckeye fans, I'd describe some of them as being downright "mopey." Although I intend to throw this gloom (and feeble merchandise sales) in their faces the next time they start up with me about Irish fans being frontrunners, for now we're all on the same team, and I say -- hang on, sloopy. You can beat these guys. In fact, I think you will beat these guys.

Ohio State 28, LSU 23.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

regarding playing in hostile environments, don't forget the road win at happy valley at night.